Copyright © 2013 Morgan Kearns
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in
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Read CHAPTER ONE
No two days of
television news were ever the same. Today’s shift started uneventful, and
pretty much stayed that way. Except for a minor accident that put a real kink
in the morning commute.
midday news was about to start, which meant Ian would be off the hook in an
hour and twenty minutes. He couldn’t wait. Not that he had any big plans for
the day, but he’d slept like shit last night on his couch and needed to get
just taken a sip from his water when reporter Phillip Ross raced into the
lounge. “Let’s go. Officer involved shooting.”
left the bottle of Aquafina right where he’d set it moments before. He dug his
keys out of his pocket and took off, tight on Phil’s heels.
coursed through him, lighting him up like a freakin’ Christmas tree. This was
the part of the job he lived for. All the other shit, shooting pretty pictures
and covering the black with fluff, tided him over for stories like this.
jumped into the driver’s seat and slammed the door. Cramming the key into the
ignition, he cranked the engine over then buckled his seat belt.
Las Vegas. They’re texting the exact address.” Phil buckled his seat belt.
the pedal all the way to the floor, the tires on the Explorer chirped as Ian
backed out of the space. He shot through the closing gate, nearly taking it off
the track and barely slowed to check for oncoming traffic.
phone buzzed. He rattled off the address and Ian hit I-15, paralleling the
Strip. Weaving in and out of traffic like a man with a death wish, he expected
cursing from the interior to match that coming from the exterior of the
vehicle. Phil didn’t say a word, though. He white-knuckled the oh-shit-handle,
sucked in a breath or two, but didn’t once tell Ian to slow down.
was good. Ian wouldn’t have anyway.
minutes and two near misses later, Ian rolled up on the scene. Before the
transmission hit park, Phil was out the passenger door and jogging up to the
jumped out, shivering a bit under the onslaught of a January breeze. He ran
around to the back and unwrapped his camera from its egg crate. The box built
into the back of his truck held the camera in a snug cocoon, protecting it from
rides exactly like the one it’d just been on.
he plopped the camera up on his shoulder, he hustled over to the yellow tape
just in time to hear, “Drug raid gone wrong. Multiple shots fired. Two
detectives?” The question earned Ian a glare from Phil.
uniform glanced up. “I can’t release that information. The families haven’t
needing to be notified, never a good sign.
glare, another glance. “One. Sorry, boys, they’re bringing him out.”
palm sweated against the handpiece of his camera. He aimed the lens at the
doorway of the house and held his breath. This was the kind of material Emmy’s
were made of.
gurney rolled out. Unable to help himself, he zoomed in on the form prone on
top. A paramedic rode on one side, pumping at the man’s chest, slamming his
hands against the ribcage, the opened bulletproof vest flapping wildly with
each thrust. Not that the action did a damn bit of good. Ian hadn’t gone to
medical school, but he didn’t need a PhD behind his name to know the man on
that gurney was a lost cause.
gaping hole in his neck, despite all the gauze and the hand holding it in place,
exposed his spine. The detective was dead, protocol just hadn’t proclaimed it
yet. Poor bastard.
the edge of the ambulance, the jolt of the undercarriage of the gurney flipping
up caused the man’s arm to fall to the side.
of ice stabbed Ian’s heart.
on that strong forearm was a single word.
Kayla, tattooed in the
beautiful scroll work he’d seen a hundred times.
hit the back of his throat. Tears speared his eyes.
handed the camera to Phil. “I’ve gotta go.”
Phil accepted the hand-off. Not that Ian gave him a choice. “Where the hell are
backed away. Stumbled, really. “I’ve gotta go.”
flared in Phil’s eyes. “And where the hell do you think you’ve gotta go?”
backing. More stumbling. No more answers.
turned and took off on an all-out sprint. His heart thundered in his chest.
Blood raced through his veins so fast he couldn’t hear anything except the rush
in his ears.
jammed the keys into the ignition and the engine roared to life. Once again the
tires squealed. He couldn’t think of anything, yet he thought of everything.
Oh God, please let me be wrong.
he were wrong he might very well lose his job. Hell, if he were right he may be
collecting food stamps. He’d gladly take unemployment if it meant Leon Black
wasn’t the man flat on his back in that ambulance.
hope Ian might have had dissipated when he turned onto his normally quiet
street. There were no lights, no sirens, but there were two of North Vegas’s finest
parked in front of the Black residence.
sped into his driveway, slammed the Explorer into park and got out. He raced
over the rocks, nearly tripping over a Tonka truck. He shot up onto the porch,
raised his hand to knock when the front door opened.
uniforms, looking somber, each shook Kayla’s hand. “If you need anything, Mrs.
Black, please let the department know.”
Really? Ian ground his
molars. Her husband died, dumbshit! She
normal stab of jealousy Ian felt at the thought of Kayla needing Leon didn’t
filet him. Not this time. In fact, he didn’t really feel much of anything.
Neither did Kayla, apparently. No emotion flickered behind the blank stare.
She’d frozen over. He could feel the iceberg from where he stood on the porch.
graciously shook the officers’ hands, said nothing, nodded, blinked, then waved
a hand toward the door. “Thank you for coming. Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I’ve
got some calls to make.”
deep freeze scared the shit out of him. Crying, screaming, melting, all of that
he could handle. This, this…well, it just wasn’t right.
emotions ran high in the composed woman standing in front of him. Kayla Black
laughed, loved, smiled. She lived with passion. Yet facing what had to be the
worst moment in her life, not a single tear shimmered in her sapphire eyes.
bit her bottom lip and waited for the officials to leave her home. She didn’t
look at him, hadn’t looked at him, hadn’t given any indication she’d even seen
him. The uniforms got in their cruisers, pulled away from the curb and she
turned to disappear inside, but left the door wide.
took that as an invitation. Walking into the Black home, it felt like he’d
never breached the walls before. The happy-go-lucky didn’t exist, replaced by
an eerie, creepy silence coating the place like a heavy blanket.
stood in front of the fireplace, staring at the pictures on the mantel, her
hands clasped in front of her.
approaching a feral animal, Ian placed his steps cautiously, slowly, until he
came up behind her. The photos broke his heart. Such joy. Love stared out of
the frames. Love this woman would never hold in her arms again.
throat tightened uncomfortably. He cleared it, choking down emotion. “Kayla?”
didn’t answer, only reached out to run a finger down the picture of Leon in his
dress uniform. She took the mahogany frame into her hands, gazed down at it for
a moment then put it back.
finally turned around and looked into Ian’s eyes. She wasn’t nearly as numb as
she appeared. Emotion, violent and tragic, waged in the deep blue depths. She
took a shallow breath, maintaining eye contact.
had on a vest.” The quiet devastation in her voice broke his heart. She blinked
once, tears filled her eyes. “He had on a vest.”
didn’t know what to say, so he kept his gaze locked with hers and kept his
promised me he’d always wear a vest.” She sniffed, wiped at her nose with the
back of her hand. “So, he had on a vest. Because he promised.”
tears flowed freely now, running down her face in steady rivulets to drip off
her chin. She wiped roughly at her cheeks, stiffened her jaw, nodded. “He
definitely had on a vest. There must be some mistake because he had a vest on.”
She pivoted toward the phone. “I’ll just call and—”
did have a vest on.”
cocked her head, blinked, searched his face. “How do you know?”
Oh God, help me. “I saw him,
Kayla. I was there. That’s why I’m here now.”
Her brows pinched. “You were there? What do you mean, you were there?” She
stumbled back. He took hold of her elbow to steady her. She jerked away like
he’d burned her. “Don’t. I’m fine.” Her head shook back and forth. “Tell me,
Ian, what do you mean you were there?”
he said in a tone he might’ve used with someone perched on a parapet.
noticed. “Don’t Kayla me. Man up,
heart thundered in his chest, but he dug deep and manned up. “We got a call
into the newsroom about an officer involved shooting.”
didn’t know until they brought him out of the house.”
bottom lip quivered. “Was he…”
Yes. “They were
doing CPR and loaded him into the ambulance.”
did you…Maybe it wasn’t…” Her questions gave out, as did her knees.
grabbed hold of her waist and cradled her against his body. “It was him, Kay. I
saw his tattoo. Your name. On his arm.” He hugged her, hoping to hold her
together when she finally fell apart. “I saw it and came.”
don’t need you, Ian.” She said the words, wounding him, but didn’t pull away.
closed his eyes, reminding himself his feelings didn’t matter. Not. One. Damned.
Bit. “I know. But I’m here anyway.”
don’t want you here. I don’t need you,” she sobbed as she clung to him. “I need
him. I need Leon.”
small fist slammed into his chest, then another. Another. And another. He took
the beating, wishing like hell he could take her pain from her. He would gladly
have taken Leon’s place to spare her. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given that
choice. Neither was she. Or Leon.
ticked by, the grandfather clock announcing the top of the hour. Two o’clock.
The kids would be home in an hour and a half. He worried how this would affect
them. As Kayla’s sobs turned to hiccups, her strength gave out. She slumped
against him, holding on as if she might drift away if she let go. He lifted her
into his arms and carried her upstairs. Their home was the exact mirror image
of his, so he knew the way to her bedroom.
didn’t ask where he took her, didn’t protest.
lay her down on the bed, tugged the comforter over her. “Can I get you
she could answer Penelope let out a squeal. Kayla shot up. “I should get her.”
rest.” He eased her back against the mattress. “I’ll get her.”
don’t need you, Ian.”
kissed her forehead, the only time he’d ever laid his lips on her. “I know,
honey. I know. Rest. I’ll get Penelope and check Chase and Sadie out of
won’t.” He handed her the box of tissues from her nightstand. “I’ll take them
for ice cream, give you some time to figure out what you want to tell them. I’m
still listed as an emergency pick up person, right?”
me if you need me.”
don’t need you.”
he was getting tired of hearing those words. “I know.”
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